Last month, Ian remembered that he had $50 worth of gift cards for Toys R Us in the bottom drawer of his desk and that those cards had to be used quickly, because the company was going bankrupt. We hastily purchased some electronic items, but we were notified three weeks later that the order was cancelled without refunding the gift cards. The company ate our $50.
So, I’m currently trying to work through the phone tree at ToysRUs to get that money back. I know it’s a lost cause, but losing $50 is bugging the crap out of me. Even if all the good stuff is gone in the stores, I want to buy diapers or something and donate it to the local food pantry. The odds of getting this money back is very slim, but I have to give it a shot.
Toys R Us is yet another business that cannot compete with the convenience of online shopping. Our local mall is a ghost town and is mostly used by retirees who pace back and forth to get their steps on the Fitbits. Sears will soon be replaced by yet another fancy supermarket with lots of prepared foods.
Is the demise of ToysRUs and its fellows a bad thing? No more teenagers hanging out at the foodcourt at the mall. No more flat-iron salesmen at the kiosks chasing me down the hallway with their products. No more lines of kids waiting to get their pictures taken with the Easter bunny. Does it matter? Probably not.
I’m quite happily buying picture frames, rugs, and eyeglasses online. My rug showed up in two days and was perfect. My glasses were inexpensive and were easy to exchange when the first pair were too large. Framing my picture online saved me several separate trips to get the picture printed and then matched to the right frame. Over this winter, I also purchased my holiday cards and a stylist-approved outfit — all online.
The stores that are going to survive the continuing extinction of brick and mortar are going to be like creatures that survived the dinosaur extinction — smart and agile and small.
People still want to go out to be inspired. They want an experience along with their shopping. So, stores that show you what your rooms can look like with their products, an IKEA for example, will be fine. Stores that provide services for the busy family, like the prepared foods at the fancy supermarkets, will keep expanding. Stores that make you feel hipper with carefully curated items and hip workers will be okay.
But you should hurry up and spend your gift cards to stores with piles of dusty board games or piles of discount jewelry. Their days are numbered.